Each time I get a new installment of the Vlad Taltos series, I can hardly wait to get started, anticipating a fast-paced, clever and completely irreverent ride through a world very like our own, and yet so different from anything we know. _Phoenix_ did not let me down; in fact, this may just be the best book thus far the in series.
Cornered and fighting for his life, Vlad half-heartedly calls upon his goddess, Verra, to save him. Much to his astonishment, she does, and in exchange for the rescue, asked him to perform a task for her. That singular task leads to catastrophe for the entire Empire, which in itself would be bad enough, but events revolving around the Teckla/Easterner revolution seem to have Vlad's life hanging by an unravelling thread. Brust skillfully reveals just enough of the plot to answer one question, while bringing several others to light.
He also allows us a more intimate view of Vlad's inner life, as Vlad more seriously begins to question his profession and its associated ethics. He realizes that he may not, in fact, loathe the Dragaerans as much as he thinks he does, largely because every time he's in trouble, he turns to two of his closest friends, Morrolan and Aliera. These two Dragonlords are such interesting characters, and are always there to back up their short-lived, human friend for reasons that have yet to be fully revealed, I think.
While all of this internal and external chaos is going on, Vlad must also cope with his marriage crashing down all around him, as he tries to save the woman he so desperately loves, but seems to have no use for him anymore. Fortunately, he has Loiosh and Rocza by his side for comfort, and we see a bit more of their respective personalities in this installment, as well as Vlad's Noish-pa, who is a delightful and welcome co-star in the story, rather than a brief cameo as he has been in the past.
It's my understanding that this was intended to be the last Taltos book, and the ending would indicate this as well; however, I am greatly relieved that there are many books after this one, as I would hate to see this series end. There are so many questions to answer, and so many hugely varied directions Brust could take the characters, that it would seem to stave off the boredom some authors have set in after a few books in the same universe. I sincerely hope he continues to produce the series for many years; I would miss his detailed descriptions of flavors, aromas, actions and feelings as he weaves his clever tales. I would miss the subtle (and often overt) cynicism through which Vlad experiences the world that so closely mirrors my own. I would hate not knowing "what happened" to these characters who have become virtual companions in my brain - no no, I'm honestly not insane or completely pathetic, I swear! Brust simply does such a good job of bringing them to life, that they occasionally pop into my head to comment on one thing or another.
Ok, I can hear you out there, saying "Ooooooh boy, this chick's totally lost it. She needs a big, hot steaming mug of reality, and fast." No really! They're just exceptionally vivid characters! I...hey...wait a minute! What're you doing with that funny white coat? I ... HEY! [struggle, struggle, struggle]
Alright, before these four large men haul me away, just let me say - read this book! Read the series! You won't be disappointed. :-)